Do rabbits like to be picked up and held? How do you hold a rabbit properly without scarring it or hurting it? What if he kicks or just plain hates it? What do you do?
Some rabbits like to cuddle and be held. Some downright hate it. Truth be told, most rabbits don’t like being picked up and toted around but will still behave. What really matters is how you do it and how your rabbit has been handled before.
If you do it properly, they’ll likely come around to being held. But don’t hold it against your bunny if he never really wants to. Again, some rabbits just aren’t all that physically affectionate.
If that’s the case, you’ve got to work with them on their own terms because, no matter what, there will come a time when you need to hold your rabbit, regardless of him liking it. That’s why knowing how to pick up and hold your rabbit properly is crucial. So you don’t accidentally scare him, hurt him, or worse, drop him.
How to Pick Your Rabbit Up Properly
Whether your rabbit likes being handled or not, you still need to know how to pick him up properly. Rabbits are pretty fragile, and if you do it the wrong way, they’ll want to escape, which can quickly turn into a bad situation.
So here are the steps to properly pick up your rabbit:
- Step 1: One Hand Under Rabbit, On Chest: With your rabbit facing you, place one hand on his chest, supporting his upper body.
- Step 2: One Hand Scoops Your Rabbit’s Bottom: Next, scoop up your rabbit by placing your hand on the bottom.
- Step 3: Lift Up Your Rabbit Slowly & Bring It To Your Chest: Not that you’ve gotten a firm and secure grasp on your rabbit, lift him up to your chest slowly. Once he’s held against you safely, you can get up and off the floor or move to a chair. Make sure that while you’re holding your rabbit, one hand remains on the bottom while the other secures the back.
How Do You Pick Up a Rabbit Without Scaring It?
You’ve got to remember that rabbits, while not nervous per se, are vigilant. They’ll usually run whenever spooked (out of self-preservation). And, as prey animals, you can’t blame them for having that instinct.
The most crucial part is making your rabbit feel safe and secure with you. So, if your rabbit is scared of being picked up or isn’t used to it, you will have to do it with a little more tact.
You don’t want your rabbit to get scared while holding him. So, remember to move slowly, don’t make any scary sudden movements, and speak softly to your rabbit to get him to come to you.
It will help your rabbit if you make yourself look less of a threat. Get down on your rabbit’s level by sitting on the floor. Don’t forget to entice your rabbit to come towards you with some fresh fruits or treats.
Once he’s comfortable, follow the same steps you normally would when picking up your rabbit.
How NOT to Pick Up Your Rabbit
If you try to pick your rabbit up the WRONG way, you can hurt him or get yourself hurt. And you’ll probably make your rabbit never want to be picked up again.
Here are some of the wrong ways to pick up your rabbit:
- Grabbing your rabbit quickly or harshly
- From behind, like a sneak attack
- By the ears, legs, or scruff (this is painful and could cause major damage)
- Scooping up from the abdomen without supporting the bottom
How to Hold a Rabbit Properly
Where to Put Your Hands: One on the back, one on the bottom, very similar to holding a newborn baby upright.
Here are some tips for holding your rabbit properly:
- Hold your rabbit firmly, so he can’t slip out of your grip but don’t grip him too tightly. That will just make him want to squirm and escape.
- Make sure your rabbit is secured and feels safe in your arms.
- Keep holding your rabbit as you squat down slowly, don’t quickly bend over and let them jump.
How NOT to Hold a Rabbit
Just like picking your rabbit up the wrong way, holding him the wrong way can cause discomfort, leading to an escape attempt, which could turn really bad.
So, here are some ways you should NEVER hold your rabbit:
- Upside down, like cradling a baby
- Like a purse dog or a football, with only one hand supporting the abdomen
- Don’t hold with too much grip or too hard
- Don’t hold your rabbit without supporting its bottom
How to Hold a Rabbit That Kicks
When a rabbit is kicking and thrashing about while you’re holding it, it can be quite dangerous for both of you. Your rabbit could jump from your arms, or you could accidentally drop it, causing an injury.
Hold your rabbit the same way described in the steps above, except you need to secure the back legs as well. You can do this using the hand that’s already supporting the bottom. Do not grab the back legs and hold them tightly, as that will only scare your rabbit more. Just secure them.
You should also sit down or stay still to make your rabbit feel a little safer. Once your rabbit settles down, you can ease up.
How to Hold a Rabbit That Hates Being Held
Some rabbits hate being held. And that’s okay. No prey animal like a bunny would like to be in a situation with no possible escape. Think about it. That’s terrifying.
But that doesn’t mean you’ll never have to handle them. So, you’ll need to know how to manage it and maybe teach your rabbit that it’s not as bad as they think.
How to Train Your Rabbit to Like Being Held
Again, you’ll have to hold your rabbit sometimes, whether he likes it or not. So, it’s much better to train him to adjust to it, or at the very least, tolerate it. Here are some tips for helping your rabbit get used to being picked up and held.
Entice Your Rabbit to Come to You
First, you need to entice your rabbit to come to you or to stay put for you to safely pick him up. Sit on the ground, and offer your rabbit some fresh fruits or treats to get him close and comfortable. Let your rabbit eat the treat while petting him. Don’t pick him up until he’s finished eating.
Picking Your Rabbit Up
Next, you’ll want to repeat the same steps as you normally would, but at a much slower pace. Start by picking up your rabbit and holding him while sitting on the floor. Remember to assess how your rabbit is feeling. If he’s desperate to escape, let him go and try again in a little while.
Move Through the Process in Baby Steps
Don’t force it or chase after your rabbit when he doesn’t want to participate. Just find a way to snag his attention and keep trying. When your rabbit becomes comfortable with that, move to sit on a chair, and so forth, until your rabbit is comfortable with you standing up.
Putting Your Rabbit Back Down
Put your rabbit down on the floor slowly, and give him another reward. This last piece is the key to gaining your rabbit’s approval and creating a positive association with being held. Do this consistently a couple of times a day until it becomes a habit.
Other Tips for Handling Rabbits Safely and Properly
Here are some other tips for proper rabbit handling.
Never Force Cuddling
It’s important to never force cuddling or being held on your rabbit. Of course, there are some exceptions. When your rabbit needs to be held by the vet or to get his nails clipped, or if you need to catch him in an emergency.
But other than that, you shouldn’t force cuddling or being held on your rabbit. I know I sound like a broken record, but I’m trying to make it clear that not all rabbits are cuddly and affectionate.
And that’s okay. Every rabbit has a different personality. And they’re all worthy and capable of love and will show it in different ways. This also applies to being picked up. Again, you want to get him used to it, and if you force it, all your progress will disappear.
Reward Your Rabbit Before and After Holding Him
The most important thing to getting your rabbit to like being handled or tolerate being picked up is to bribe him. And that doesn’t have to mean feeding him a bunch of treats. Offer any kind of positive reinforcement that your rabbit does enjoy as soon as you put your rabbit back down.
Doing this creates a positive association with being picked up and held, which, with time and consistency, will eventually get him to like being held.
Always Squat Down to Put Him Back on the Ground
You should never let your rabbit go while you’re standing up. Jumping from that height could lead to a list of injuries for your rabbit. But you don’t want to bend over and let your rabbit jump from halfway down, either.
The safest way to put your rabbit back on the ground is to squat down as far as you can go, while still securely holding your rabbit. He’ll likely start to squirm on the way down, so you may need to hold him a little tighter.
Remember to do it slowly. The main thing here is to make your rabbit feel safe. Once you’re close enough to the ground, you can safely let your rabbit go.
It’s important to try and encourage your rabbit to like being picked up and held. The truth is, a lot of them don’t like it. It’s scary to them. Especially if they’re not used to it.
But when you pick up and hold your rabbit properly and do it often enough, he can learn that he’s safe in your arms, and adjust to being held. It’s just like training your rabbit for anything. All you need is positive reinforcement and consistency.
And it will pay off when you can safely trim your rabbit’s nails or get through a vet checkup without coming out covered in scratches.